Environmental Insights Explorer, a new tool by Google, aims to help cities calculate their carbon footprint. The tool allows users to view greenhouse gas emissions, customize results by inputting data, and set mitigation goals, as well as identify opportunities for reducing emissions.

Google's Environmental Insights Explorer overview of Melbourne, Australia. Environmental Insights Explorer, Google.

Overview of Melbourne, Australia. Environmental Insights Explorer, Google.

The beta version, which was launched in early September, includes data from just five cities: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Melbourne, Australia; Victoria, Canada; and Mountain View and Pittsburgh in The United States. It combines data from Google Maps with other data to estimate the emissions of residential and non-residential building and transportation in the given cities.

Environmental Insights Explorer also extracts data from Google’s Project Sunroof, a tool launched in 2015 that uses AI and satellite imaging to map rooftop solar potential. The tool includes a breakdown of the potential for solar installation and the equivalent emission reductions.

Rooftop Solar Potential estimates in Melbourne, Australia. Environmental Insights Explorer, Google.

Rooftop Solar Potential estimates in Melbourne, Australia. Environmental Insights Explorer, Google.

As the tool becomes more developed, cities will be able to adjust data, allowing them to estimate how their carbon footprint will be affected by changes in housing or transportation, for example. In helping cities identify the source of emissions, the tool aims to help them make informed decisions about where to make cuts to reduce their footprint.

The tool was developed as a collaboration between Google and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, “an international alliance of cities and local governments with a vision for promoting and supporting voluntary action to combat climate change and move to a low emission, resilient society.”

“This is looking at the thousands of cities that are out there today that don’t typically have the resources to spend on digging up the data or analyzing the data,” Nicole Lombardo, leader of partnerships at Google’s Environmental Insights, told Fast Company. “This tool helps to do some of that and reduce some of the complexities and the cost in that process, so you have more people spending less time data gathering and data crunching and more on the action planning.”

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